Things I Wish I Would Have Known: Applications

We’re kicking off the 2021 application cycle with a new series written by our Student Admission Ambassadors – everything they wish they would have known! We hope this will be helpful for you as you research law schools, start the application process, and navigate final decisions. 

Vance, Gabby 1

I was just beginning my senior year of college and applying to law school. I was top of my college class and very involved in extra circular activities and held many leadership positions. While I was on top of the world, or so I felt at Elon, my undergraduate institution, I was just like any other applicant applying to William & Mary Law School. So how could I make myself stand out?

Law school admissions deans like Dean Jordan and Dean Smith are reading thousands of applications from many qualified students. Some things, such as a high LSAT, will make your application stand out in a sense, but I have always struggled with standardized tests. I knew my LSAT was not going to be the strongest part of my application. My personal statement and letters of recommendation provided a space where I felt like I could really show the admissions office who I was. But even now, almost three years later, reflecting on the application process, I could have done more to make my application stand out and be the best applicant possible.

When I was applying to schools, I spent so much time describing awards I had received and significant personal accomplishments. That is not a bad thing, it is good to have that information on your application. But, I spent very little time discussing WHY I actually wanted to go to law school and particularly WHY William & Mary Law School. I was one of the weird kids, who knew since they were in Kindergarten that I wanted to be a lawyer. Through various high school and college experiences, that passion only grew. During my junior year of college, I interned at a state prosecutor’s office and worked on a brutal domestic violence case. While the case was on trial, I had an aha moment that is I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, where was that in my application? My personal statement was about on my study abroad experience, which was great and a very special part of my life, but someone who has to read so many applications will more likely remember that powerful story in the courtroom that impacted me so significantly to where that Plaintiff is who I think of when law school gets really hard. Those stories sell you as not just another candidate but someone who, when the going of law school gets hard, will keep going because they have their “why” and they really want to be here and do this.

Second, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but the law school application process is you advertising and selling yourself as the best applicant, and part of that is saying you interested in the school, in which you are applying to . If there is nowhere on your William & Mary application that signifies you would choose to go to William & Mary, you have ties to Virginia, you like Colonial Williamsburg – you are selling yourself short. Visit the school, call the dean of admissions, research the programs, and email a current student. Taking these steps will show you are not just thinking about law school. You are going to law school and likely this one. William & Mary was my top choice law school, and I knew if I got in, I was going. But why did I say that on my application? Law school admissions deans love when a student is really excited about their school. It means they are doing their job well! If the school is William & Mary, which I hope it is or elsewhere, make sure that they know how badly you want them. It will bolster you application and can help move you in the pile.

Gabby Vance is a 3L from Severna Park, MD, serving as the 0L/1L representative for the Student Bar Association 

Forum Decorum – Get the Most Out of LSAC Forums

Students talk with an admissions representative at a fair

The law school recruitment season starts fast and furious with LSAC sponsored forums back to back from the end of September all the way through mid-November. Each forum is a great opportunity for students interested in learning more about law schools to get a lot of information in one fell swoop, but it can also be very overwhelming. On average, there are more than 150 law schools at each event throughout the country, which can lead to large crowds and some tight situations. But we’ve put together our top tips for how to navigate these large-scale events so that you can be effective in your research!

Take advantage of the workshops

At every forum, there are workshops scheduled throughout the day in conjunction with the law school fair. These workshops cover an array of topics that are directly related to the law school search and application process. These are the real deal for making sure that you know what to expect! Is it your first forum? Forum 101 is for you. Are you curious about financial aid in law school? Make sure you go to Financing a Legal Education! These presentations are a wealth of information for those just starting the search process.

Have a list of questions ready

There is nothing wrong with looking at schools not on your “list” – in fact, you ABSOLUTELY should do that, because you never know what school might be your best fit! But there’s nothing worse than waiting in line at a table to talk to a rep, getting up to the front and saying, “Can you tell me about your school?” Of course we can tell you about it, but what do you want to know? Have a few standard questions that are applicable across law schools to get the ball rolling, and maybe you’ll come up with a few follow-up questions in the course of the conversation!

Don’t expect a full conversation at the table

There are a LOT of people who attend these forum, which means there is likely to be a line of interested candidates at some of the schools you want to talk to. Don’t expect to have a 15-20 minute conversation about your specific situation with these representatives. Forums are the perfect place to start gathering research and following up later. We always welcome an email, phone call, or campus visit after we’ve met you on the road, but we have a lot of students to talk with and want to make sure everyone has a chance to get their questions answered!

Grab-and-Go

A lot of times, you may walk by the same table two, three, or four times over the course of an hour and it seems like the line is never getting shorter! There is nothing wrong with standing at the side of the table, grabbing some information, and maybe putting your L number down on the paper for that school. The key here is to make sure you grab the business card of the rep that is there so that you can follow up later! Occasionally, there won’t be a business card because the rep is an alum or a faculty member – make sure you do your research and follow up with the Admissions Office later to get any questions you have answered.

Think outside the list

We alluded to this already, but it’s smart to come into the forum with a list of schools you want to talk to. It’s also smart to think outside that list and talk with schools that maybe you’ve heard of but never considered, or maybe you’ve just never heard of! There is a law school for everyone, it’s just about finding your right fit. So take a stab outside of the box and your comfort zone by taking a quick second to talk with a rep at a school that’s maybe not on your list.

There are SO MANY other tips, but these are the top 5 from our perspective. Remember, forums are about learning and you might leave feeling a bit overwhelmed. Call or email the Admissions Offices at the schools your considering to follow up and hopefully ask some additional questions if you feel like you need help. You can find William & Mary Law at all of the forums this fall – make sure you keep up to date with our recruitment calendar to see if we’re coming to your area!